Looking to end Austin Dillon’s struggles, Richard Childress Racing has placed a trusted veteran atop his pit box.
The organization announced Monday that veteran crew chief Richard “Slugger” Labbe has replaced Gil Martin as Dillon’s crew chief, effective immediately. Labbe will assume crew chief responsibilities for Dillon’s No. 3 Dow/American Ethanol/Cheerios/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS team.
Labbe’s first race with the team will be the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday, June 28.
Labbe, whose wins include the 2003 Daytona 500 and 2011 Brickyard 400, has 16 years of experience as a crew chief, working with the late Kenny Irwin Jr., Michael Waltrip, Jeremy Mayfield, Dale Jarrett, Sterling Marlin, David Gilliland, Bobby Labonte, and most recently Paul Menard.
Labbe, who has 433 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts to his credit, stepped down from crew chief duties for Menard following the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway last fall, as part of an announced transition to RCR’s research and development department.
Martin, who has 16 wins in 472 starts as an NSCS crew chief, will move into Labbe’s leadership role within RCR’s R&D department.
Dillon, a two-time NASCAR champion, is currently 23rd in driver points in his second season of full-time competition and still in search of his first Sprint Cup win. The Lewisville, North Carolina driver has two wins this season in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition.
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I don’t envy Labbe getting into this pressure cooker situation. Gil has proven to be a winner and contender yet he’s the problem? How frustrating it must be for him. It must be a high honor and very lucrative to crew chief a team on the National stage, but this crew chief position has to be one of the least desirable because of the dynamics created by nepotism. Related note: Harvick is Happy again. Maybe it’s time for Gil to jump ship. How about Larson/Martin 2016?